Tag Archives: identity

The Grass on the Other Side

It’s one of those subject lines that grabs you by the throat. Time slowed as my mouse hovered over “Baby Died.”

I didn’t breathe at all until I realized it wasn’t my friend’s baby. Except, it sort of was. One of the babies she works with in a Ugandan orphanage. Not family, as are the 7 dependants she claims on tax forms, but close to it, when you know her heart and her view of the world.

As I read about her many kids, her son’s broken arm, the challenges of life in Africa and her husband’s upcoming trip, I couldn’t help but feel small. Small in my scope and my reach and the type of things that seem SO overwhelming to me right now.

I pulled up my calendar in Outlook, adding “letter to Cher” to my task list when the words “Nicaragua trip” caught my eye. I realized that it’s almost time for 32 local high school students to put the rubber of global education to the road of real life experience, working with families living, literally, in a garbage dump in Central America.

Since trips to the grocery store down the street take monumental effort for our family, it seems inconceivable that my friend Ginny and her husband manage to not only plan and lead this annual trip, but build an international aid organization and spend summers exploring Europe with their children. Before reaching double digits, their girls have seen and experienced more of the world than most adults. Extraordinary. Adventurous. So beyond our reach.

It should be a good thing, to be trusted with someone else’s story, a much needed gift of perspective. Instead, too often, I let the comparisons steal from me. Spiriting away my confidence and contentment, making my stories seem less important to my own eyes.

Sighing, I scrolled through the rest of my emails, perking up to see an email from a new friend – one of my English professors. I had been thrilled to connect beyond the classroom and honoured to act as a sounding board for her upcoming blog. Not only does she have a depth of experience as a mentor and academic, she’s already a published author. That she also happens to be stylish, beautiful and eloquent only reinforced my belief that her life must be glamorous.

I braced myself for another dose of envy and insecurity. Somewhere along the way, I cast myself as the frumpy housewife inching towards an undergrad degree at an absurdly glacial pace. But that’s not who she sees.

Our paths have been very different. As she put it, we are “opposite ends of the contemporary women’s spectrum,” yet somehow, kindred spirits.

She sent me a draft she’d written for the new blog about our unexpected, providential friendship. I am the other side of that mirror for her, just as she is for me… a glimpse down the road not taken. Reading it, I was reminded that her life, so glamorous to my eyes, has actually been a hard-fought, often scary journey. But she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

That much we have in common.

I don’t regret my journey. I don’t regret my destination. Even though I caught vomit in my bare hands twice yesterday. Even though I haven’t had 4 consecutive hours of sleep since Thursday. Even though I throw embarrassing, self indulgent pity parties for the whole internet to see. Even though I’m not a saint, or a world traveller, or a ‘real’ writer.


I won’t let comparison steal anymore from me today. I am surrounded by exceptional women with challenging, complex, beautiful stories. Not molds I must pour myself into. Not scales to weigh myself against. Not competition.


The grass on our side of the fence is a unique strain. It might not spread as far and wide as some… it might not grow as tall or as quickly or as easily… but it’s home. When I stop filtering my life through everyone else’s story, this messy, noisy, beautiful life comes back into focus. And it’s good – hard, but good. And I can appreciate the view into other lives all the more.

So here’s me, in the ongoing battle to just be. Thank God for my story. And yours.


We Never Leave Home

Another Friday. Another Five Minutes to write. Another topic.


We all need it. We all crave it. We all spend a lifetime looking for it.

Maybe it’s a house. Or an apartment. Or a webpage. Or a shopping cart. Or a fort cobbled together with plywood and packing tape. Or a fuzzy blanket, worn out in all the right spots.

We call it home, because it is ours. It feels safe and comfortable. It is relief when everything spins out of control. Whether it was a gift or a hard-fought victory, we have carved a place out of the world where we belong.

And somewhere along the way it becomes less about where we are, or who we’re with, or what we have. It becomes a part of us. One day when it is long gone and strangers have moved in and time has eaten away the threads of it, it remains as real to us as ever.

I am the big, blue house on the corner. I am bowls of ice cream with Dad. I am stirring the gravy while Mom zips around the kitchen. I am a red swing set and crabapple trees and little sisters tagging along after me.

I am the third unit in Student Family Housing. I am a fifth generation ratty old couch with a green sheet overtop. I am goofing around in the tiny kitchen, making orange sauce and noodles because we can’t afford meat.

I am ducking to get into the bathroom in a tiny basement suite in Guelph. I am the mural of a park in my daughter’s first room. I am picking blackberries over the fence. I am counting the 14 stairs up to the living room with my son.

I am so many places and people and things which make me feel safe and comfortable and loved.

Because we never really leave home. We carry it with us. Always.


So here’s me, craving ice cream with my Dad and orange sauce with noodles. I don’t think I appreciated them as much as I should, at the time.

Recipe for Orange Sauce:

2/3 Cup of Ketchup

2/3 Cup of Water

3 Tbsp of Brown Sugar

Dash of Lemon juice

Boil until sauce thickens and serve with noodles or rice

(and pork chops, if you can afford it).


Join Lisa-Jo for a 5 Minute Writing Challenge: set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

The “F” Word

It’s a bad word. I get after my kids for using it. So I should definitely know better, but I can’t seem to stop myself from using it. I don’t often say it out loud, at least, not so anyone can hear. Nevertheless, it is frequently used vocabulary in my internal dialogue.


It’s my personal kryptonite. I recently organized a large event for the church where I work. I worked with some amazing people and the evening was a huge success. But even weeks later I can give you a long list of my failures. Small things that no one even noticed. Problems that may very well exist only in my mind.

Last night I organized another event and it also went remarkably well. Yet the same mantra is playing in my head… a list of all the little things that went wrong and that F word over and over again.

It could be that birth order phenomenon – I am the oldest and hold myself to impossible standards, wanting to control things that I can’t possibly predict. It’s a twisted form of pride (all insecurity is). I don’t expect as much from others as I do myself.

Perhaps it is temperament. I am conscientious and responsible. I am detail-oriented and task-focused. According to Myers-Briggs, I am INFJ, which is psycho-babble for “perfectionist control-freak”.

Maybe it’s my religious up-bringing. Plymouth Brethren (think semi-Amish city folk) can give the Catholics and the Jews a run for their money in the guilt department. My parents were definitely moving towards a faith of grace and forgiveness when I was a child, but I seem to have picked up the self-flagellating attitude somewhere along the way. Jonathan Edwards wrote a very famous (and in my opinion quite horrible) sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. For me a scarier title would have been “Sinners in the Hands of a Disapproving God”.

When I made my very first foray into therapy, I was sure I knew which problems I needed to discuss. A gifted and insightful counselor knew different. About halfway through our second session, he looked me in the eye and said, “God is not disappointed in you.” I burst into tears and proceeded to blubber for the rest of the hour. After crying all the way home, it occurred to me that this may in fact be the real issue.

The God I picture in my head isn’t nearly as good as the real thing.

There is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

No condemnation. No disappointed sighs. No disgusted eye rolls.

When I keep reading that same chapter of the bible it is clear that in God’s eyes I am not a failure. He made sure of it. It says:

I am free.

I am a beloved daughter.

I am forgiven.

I have purpose.

I am loved no matter what.

I am more than a conqueror!

And suddenly it doesn’t really matter that I miscounted the RSVP list and couldn’t figure out the coffee maker. Beating myself up over silly details does seem profane when I remember who I truly am and the God who made me. I make mistakes. I screw up. I may even fail from time to time. But I am not a failure. So bring on the cheesy affirmations; the “F” word has got to go.

So here’s me, and doggonnit, people like me!

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